Public Domain Photo of 1929 postcard of the Cascade Plunge.
In a time before Alabama Splash Adventure, Birmingham could boast of being home to the largest, state-of-the-art swimming facility in the South - Cascade Plunge. This enormous crystal pool could hold over three thousand swimmers and was eighty by two-hundred and twenty feet (80X220) long. Cascade Plunge, located at 2nd Avenue South in East Lake, opened in 1923. Birmingham residents could hop on a streetcar and quickly arrive at the water attraction where they could enjoy a swim in the pool, the many dancing pavilions, and regular entertainment scheduled there. Construction costs for the pool topped $175,000 – an enormous sum for its day. Today, the pool would have cost $2.6 million to build! Over 28,000 gallons of crisp, refreshing water was filtered and pumped into the pool every hour. The pool's water was turned over every eight hours.
The City of Birmingham was founded in 1871, and from the time of its inception until the 1920s, it quickly developed. People moved into the city from surrounding rural farms, along with immigrants from all over the world, to take advantage of the jobs created by the steel industry in downtown Birmingham. The city was thriving. Parks, new neighborhoods, and businesses sprang up all around Birmingham to support and entertain the growing population. Cascade Plunge was one of the most popular attractions to come to Birmingham.
State-of-the-Art Amenities and First-Class Entertainment Offered at Cascade Plunge:
Cascade Plunge offered the most modern swimming facilities in the South along with first-class entertainment all week long! A guest could also enjoy live music, a picnic lunch, or take in one of the pool's aquatic performances. Lifeguards and swimming instructors were available to swimmers at the plunge. No suit? No problem! Swimmers could rent a wool bathing suit if they didn’t own one.
The facility’s changing areas had over two thousand lockers. The women’s dressing area offered one thousand private dressing rooms with showers. The ladies' room even kept beauticians on staff and offered makeup lessons and hair dryers for personal use. The men’s area featured Turkish baths. A large dancing pavilion dubbed the Cloud Room, which contained enormous wood-burning fireplaces on each end, is where the entertainment set up each night. Food and beverages were added to the long list of amenities sold on the property, too.
Public Domain Photo of Cascade Plunge
Over the years, it earned a reputation for being “the date night spot” for couples. The pool facility held orchestras, popular bands, sock hops, and formal banquets there nightly. Eventually, Cascade Plunge also opened its doors to all sorts of entertainment acts, including comedians and beauty contests. And, of course, they hosted major swim meets at the pool.
During its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, Cascade Plunge charged admissions of thirty-five cents for adults and twenty cents for kids. Service members were often offered free admission. Season tickets could be purchased for two dollars per year down at Parisians.
In 1972, just before the start of the summer season, Cascade Plunge sadly closed its doors after a forty-nine-year run. The property then enjoyed a short life as a stocked fishing lake. It was later sold to Habitat for Humanity Greater Birmingham and re-designed into a forty-home community named Cascade Parc. Its short history as a water destination had come to an end.
It’s still possible today to run into former guests of the swimming pool who reflect fondly on their visits. Some played there as kids, others received their first kiss from a suitor, and a few even proposed marriage at Cascade Plunge.
Birmingham is filled with many charming and unique spots. Cascade Plunge is one of many special places its residents have enjoyed in the cities one-hundred-and-fifty-year history.